If you are a writer, chances are that at some point you’ve either had someone copy your work and not give you credit or (worse) had someone copy your work and present it as their work. While you probably can’t keep it from ever happening to you, there are definite measures you can take to achieve copyright protection and make sure that your copyright is defended online. Remember, creative works including writing, artwork, video and photographs are easy to steal with only a few clicks of a mouse. However, there are many things you can do to help protect your online content.
Simple Steps to Use Copyright Protection to Safeguard Your Content
- Include a copyright notice. To do this, add the copyright symbol or the word ‘copyright’ followed by your name and the date that you created the content. Most of the time if someone sees you’ve placed a copyright notice on your work, it will deter them from trying to take it. (Not always, though.)
- Use a website like com and put a badge on your website and register your work. They have both a free service and a ‘pro’ level service, and even the pro level isn’t too expensive.
- Make sure to watermark your visual content (photos, artwork and videos). Many sites where people post art make it a built-in part of the process to watermark your work, but you should be able to do it fairly easily on your own.
- Make sure you are monitoring your online content. You can set Google Alerts or employ more advanced techniques. If you’re a blogger, consider using something like Copygator.
Copyright Protection Means Prevention Plus Enforcement
Most of the time the above steps will do a decent job of protecting your content. But what if *gasp* you find that your content HAS been stolen/used without your permission?
- Be prepared by keeping an archive of any drafts of your work. That can help prove it originated from you.
- Use WHOIS to find out who owns the website that is using your work if there is no ‘contact’ page or information on the site.
- Take screenshots. One key to successfully defending your copyright is making sure you have excellent documentation.
- Send the owner of the other site a ‘take-down notice.’ Be polite and professional.
- If they refuse or simply don’t reply after a reasonable amount of time, you can often contact their web host and present your case. If that doesn’t work, you can have an attorney draft a cease and desist notice. Ultimately, you can sue someone for copyright infringement, but that takes a significant amount of both time and money and should only be used as an absolute last resort.
Compromise is an Option if Your Work has Been Copied
Prevention really is the best way to go when dealing with online copyright issues. However, sometimes you can come to a compromise (like having the other site owner properly credit you for your work). And when talking about written work it’s always possible that the person saw an article you wrote which sparked them to write their own article, and they ended up utilizing many of your keywords and phrases. Similarly, it never hurts to run your own writing through a plagiarism checker before posting to keep yourself in the clear.
Or, you may have a situation like I did recently. I’d written an article and submitted it to be posted. I didn’t know when it would actually be published, and I did a post-submission plagiarism check on it. With innocent expectations, I was MORTIFIED to find that my work matched another article almost word-for-word! In a panic, I clicked the first link of the suspected copied material and began to read quickly as the page loaded. Yes, it took me to the plagiarized article all right! It was the article … that I had just written, and that had JUST BEEN PUBLISHED. So, yes, it identified a very similar article – my own!
Whether you are protecting your content from being copied or making sure you are not copying someone else’s content, it is important to understand copyrights and how to both prevent and protect your content. It is your hard work so it is worth protecting.
Have you ever had your work copied? How did you deal with it?